Man can not be God, says Roman Church

Senior Italian Roman Catholic bishops expressed concern Friday at the creation of the first synthetic living cell which they said could be a "devastating" move.

Updated: May 21, 2010, 23:47 PM IST

Rome: Senior Italian Roman Catholic bishops expressed concern Friday at the creation of the first synthetic living cell which they said could be a "devastating" move.

Scientists in the United States say they developed the cell, by constructing a bacterium`s "genetic software" and then transplanting it into a host cell.

"In the wrong hands, today`s novelty could lead to a devastating step into the unknown tomorrow," said Bishop Domenico Mogavero, head of the legal affairs commission for the Italian Episcopal Conference, in an interview with La Stampa daily.

"Man comes to God, but he is not God: he remains human and he has the possibility to give life through procreation, not through constructing it artificially," he added.

Lead US researcher Craig Venter said when announcing the development on Thursday that the method could be used to design bacteria specifically to help produce biofuels or to clean up environmental hazards.

"We call it synthetic because the cell is totally derived from a synthetic chromosome, made with four bottles of chemicals on a chemical synthesizer, starting with information in a computer," he said.

Catholic religious leaders have expressed fears however that scientists are "playing God".

"It is human nature which gives its dignity to the human genome, not the inverse. The nightmare to be fought is the manipulation of life," said Mogavero.

Bruno Forte, archbishop of Chieti-Vasto in central Italy and a theologian, said: "The worry can be resumed in one question -- is what is scientifically possible also just from an ethical point of view?"

He added in comments to Corriere della Sera that he admired modern research and that the Church was not "fundamentally" opposed to it but was carefully monitoring.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told the ANSA news agency late Thursday that more detail on the discovery was needed. "There have already been similar announcements which after a while have been changed."

-Bureau Report